Thursday, June 5, 2008

Lakers vs. Celtics: 2008 NBA Finals Preview

The Lakers swept the Nuggets, beat the Utah Jazz in six games and dethroned the former defending NBA champions in five games to win the tough Western Conference.

The Celtics were taken to seven games, in the process of beating the Hawks and Cavaliers, then beating the Pistons on the road in six games to win the rugged Eastern Conference.

This is the NBA Finals match-up that several people wanted to see.

A classic NBA rivalry renewed.

Every year the names on the back of the jersey’s change, but when you hear Lakers vs. Celtics, that brings back several memories, good and bad, of a bitter rivalry with sweating intensity.

It can be referred to as a gift from the basketball god’s or a real life throwback, but for the eleventh time L.A. faces Boston.

The Celtics were founded in 1946 and this rivalry took shape in the 1950’s when the Celtics hired Arnold “Red” Auerbach to coach the team. He took the league by storm winning their first title in 1957.

Prepare yourself for a battle for supremacy of professional basketball—a world championship.

The Lakers were 0-2 in the season series against the Celtics. Both teams have changed since those two match-ups.

This is a match up of the best offensive team in the league (Lakers) vs. the best defensive team in the league (Celtics).

This is the Lakers first time in the Finals since 2004. This is the Celtics first time in the Finals since 1987.

Let’s fire up the flux capacitor and set the date to 1987.

Riggs & Murtaugh blew up downtown Los Angeles; two governors were spawned thanks to Predator; several people were sporting Jheri Curls, Afro’s and mullets; we found out that Cher could act; Run-DMC was Raising Hell; LL Cool J dropped a classic—Hip Hop’s First Love ballad on his second of 13 albums; Doug Williams became the first black QB to win a Super Bowl; and the Lakers received vengeance and beat the Celtics 4-2 after losing to them in 1986. Played at the Boston Madison Square Garden located on top of North Station, which was demolished in 1997.

This time around, the Celtics big three, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jesus Shuttlesworth a.k.a. Ray Allen, will square off against L.A.’s big three—the league MVP Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Lamar Odom.

Starter Match–Ups

PG Derek Fisher 6’ 1” 210 lbs. 11th Year, Avg. 11.7 Pts, 2.9 Ast, 2.1 Reb, 1 Stl
PG Rajon Rondo 6’1” 171 lbs. Second Year, Avg. 10.5 Pts, 6.6 Ast, 4.2 Reb.

Derek Fisher is a savvy veteran with championship experience. After chasing the gauntlet of leagues best point guards in Allen Iverson, Deron Williams, and Tony Parker to reach the Finals, there’s nothing Rondo can do to surprise him.

Rondo is the primary distributor for the Celtics. Expect Derek Fisher to outmuscle Rondo. Advantage: Lakers
SG Kobe Bryant 6’ 6” 220 lbs. 11thYear, Avg. 28.3 Pts, 5.4 Ast, 6.3 Reb, 2 Stl. SG Ray Allen 6’5” 205 lbs. 11thYear, Avg. 17.4 Pts, 3.1 Ast, 3.7 Rebs.
Ray Allen has experience facing Kobe Bryant from his days in Seattle. Ray has had, for him, a less than stellar playoffs with a slight loss of confidence in his shooting recently.
He has the tough assignment of guarding Kobe Bryant, the league MVP who is unpredictable, unstoppable, and sometimes unbelievable. Advantage: Lakers
SF Lamar Odom 6’ 11” 230 lbs. Eighth Year, Avg. 14.2 Pts, 3.5 Ast, 10.6 Reb, 1 block
SF Paul Pierce 6’ 7” 235 lbs. 9thYear, Avg. 19.6 Pts, 4.5 Ast, 5.1 Rebs.
This is a good match up that has the potential to take away Paul Pierce’s post up game and force him to stay on the perimeter. He is a solid scorer and leader on this team and will more than likely take the last shot if the opportunity arises.
Lamar Odom will be a key in this series due to his ability to do so many things. He will be in the triple threat position and can post up Paul Pierce and score in the low post or draw a double team and find and open cutter to the basket or pass out to open shooters. Advantage: Celtics
PF Vladimir Radmanovic 6’ 10” 235 lbs. Sixth Year, Avg. 8.4 Pts, 1.9 Ast, 3.3 Reb.
PF Kevin Garnett 6’ 11” 220 lbs. 12thYear, Avg. 18.8 Pts, 3.4 Ast, 9.2 Reb.
Kevin Garnett is a tough cover for anyone and I’m expecting a lot of cross matching in the series, but Vladimir Radmanovic will start out covering KG.
He is 6’ 10” and if KG guards him he can take KG away from the basket. He must knock down open jumpers to spread the floor for the offense. Advantage: Celtics
C Paul Gasol 7’ 0” 250 lbs. Sixth Year, Avg. 18.9 Pts, 3.2 Ast, 8.4 Reb, 2 Blocks
C Kendrick Perkins 6’ 10” 264 lbs. Fourth Year, 6.9 Pts, 1.1 Ast, 6.1 Reb, 1.5 Blocks
Pau Gasol has been epic for the Lakers' offense and the last line of defense. Gasol’s scoring, decision-making, passing, and rebounding helps the Lakers on both ends of the court.
Perkins is a force in the middle and one of the main reasons the Celtics are in the Finals.
Gasol has the potential to outscore Perkins as well as keep him in foul trouble which would weaken the Celtic defense. Pau Gasol, after playing against Utah & San Antonio, should be prepared for his battle with Perkins. Advantage: Lakers
The Celtics have received production from their bench; however, just like the Spurs, the Celtics have several older players on their bench. The Lakers' bench has been productive for them all season.
This could be the difference in the series.
The Lakers' athletes on the bench will bring speed, energy, and scoring. This group has the ability to change speeds and run the opposition out of the building. Advantage: Lakers
This will be a tough series in yet another classic NBA battle.
The Lakers have that one player on their team that won’t allow his team to lose and can get a needed bucket or get to the free throw line in Kobe Bryant. He is a guy who when feeling it and playing like a man possessed, who will not be denied.
You'll see a lot of cross matching in this series where Luke Walton & Radmanovic will guard Paul Pierce as an example, although Kobe will more than likely be his primary defender.
Sasha Vujacic will chase Ray Allen. James Posey will have an opportunity to guard Kobe.
Both teams are tough to beat at home. The TD Banknorth Garden isn't the scariest place to be in the U.S. It's not like you roll up and see $4.58 per gallon on a gas pump, now that's scary.
I recall going to a game, back in the day, donning my Lakers jacket and I was booed at the train station, on the train to the stadium, at the Garden when fans didn't just come to watch the game they manned battle stations.
I heard the deafening "beat L.A." chant that has already started. The Los Angeles Lakers were the first team in history to beat the Celtics in the Finals in Boston. My prediction for the NBA Finals, Los Angeles Lakers in six games.

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